Blade Runner 2049

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*Note, when I am referring to “the original” Blade Runner I am referring to the directors cut, as that is the only version of Blade Runner I have seen*

Blade Runner 2049 was a surprising entity for me. Like the original, it was more story-centric than the marketing department would leave you to believe, which is a good decision from director Dennis Villeneuve and combined with fantastic sets and visuals, it did keep me invested for the 161-minute running time and that is worth a lot of praise.

However, even describing a brief synopsis for Blade Runner 2049 is both complex and constitutes spoiler territory so I will only say two things about it 1. Ryan Gosling is a Blade Runner and 2. Harrison Ford is in it. I would say that watching the original Blade Runner will help the viewer to understand the world it occupies and why you need to be emotionally invested in Harrison Ford’s character because Blade Runner 2049 draw so many parallels to the original that it is not funny.

Literally, from the first shot, Blade Runner 2049 pays homage to the original Blade Runner. There were so many moments and scenes that aim to replicate the original that I can make direct comparisons. I have concluded that the even though the original was a stronger film, it was only stronger by a whisker. That is because Blade Runner 2049 has many twists and turn to not only the story, but to the themes that the original evokes such as what humans perceive as love, identity, and existence.

My favorite scene involves Harrison Ford’s and Jared Leto’s characters meeting the first time and what the scene develops into. That scene does expand the notion of the perception of love itself from the original movie.

There were also many other scenes that differed from the original that worked in their own right but the movie always lost me slightly when they did all the callbacks as I was thinking “The original movie did it slightly better” I don’t want to be reminded of that in any movie I see, I want a movie to earn it’s own stripes or and stand on its own accord. This is especially frustrating when a movie like Blade Runner 2049 was hitting a home run anyway.

The visuals and set pieces were the best things in the movie. In terms of cinematography, a lot of it looks like a digitized version of sepia tone, which gave off a warm absorbing effect, yet gave off the scene of dread. It was unique, simple and effective. It may rival Dunkirk so far for the best cinematography of 2017. For the set designs, it is like going into a candy shop if you have seen the original Blade Runner. That is because you know where the characters are heading and it’s intriguing. The set designs give off the right mindset of understanding of the world geographically.

I cannot deny that Blade Runner 2049 is an absorbing movie that kept my attention for a long period of time. I did not reach the level of emotional brevity that this film tries hard to do (admittedly, that is not even a negative critique as that is a massive undertaking) but I was in it with the story and characters the whole way with plenty of visual delight and ideas that make it a worthy candidate next to the original ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

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Rotten Tomatoes Killing the Movie Business- Really?

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Well, after over 100 years of films and film criticism, movie studios have now blamed Rotten Tomatoes for killing their profit margins this year.

It is really strange considering that the Rotten Tomatoes has existed for 19 years and film criticism has existed far longer than that. Despite this, major blockbuster movies very rarely failed to make a profit.

So it would not surprise you that I believe the movie studio arguments do not really hold. I am about 90-10 in terms of disagreeing with them over agreeing with them.

I will be writing about

  1. The movie studio’s main argument
  2. How Rotten Tomatoes works and how little correlation Rotten Tomatoes is to box office performance
  3. How these movies the movie studio mentioned may have failed
  4. Where the money is really made.
  5. Finally, I will write about what people, movie studios and Rotten Tomatoes can do to make the overall movie experience better.

Movie Studio Argument

The argument movie studios have for their diminishing returns is that young adult’s purchase online more often and since the purchase of Rotten Tomatoes website from Fandango, there has been a significant drop in box office revenue from movies that have given poor reviews. This is because they see the rating before they purchase movie tickets. They also questioned the Rotten Tomatoes rating system and how it works and how that contributes to the box office decline.

The “Questionable” Rotten Tomatoes System

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The tomatometer, the percentage indicates positive response and the average rating is an indicater on how much critics like or dislike a movie.

I will respond to the dumbest part of the argument first which is that Rotten Tomatoes is a questionable system in how it rates movies. They argue that it is a misrepresentation, which is partly true, but it is not intended to be deceitful. This misrepresentation only happens when critical opinion is mixed and even then it’s only in specific situations. The system is an aggerate of many critics opinions boiled down to either liking it (Fresh) or not liking it (rotten) which creates an approval rating percentage (The Tomatometer). If the Tomatometer is more than 60% positive (6 out 10 critics like the movie), it is considered “fresh” and anything less is considered “rotten”. The misrepresentation here is that the Tomatometer does not measure how much a movie critic loves or loathes a movie.

To delve further into what critics really rate a movie, there is a weighted average mean that is scored out of ten to weed out the mixed reviews that The Tomatometer could misrepresent. The weighted average is more accurate to critic sentiment than the Tomatometer as the Tomatometer does not represent mixed reviews very well sometimes and is a better indicator on how much they liked or disliked a movie.

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Two recent movies Grils Trip and Mother got exactly the same average rating of 6.8, yet the tomatometer skews Girls Trip by 15% because it got more positive reviews than negative ones. Those reviews were only mildly positive reviews given the 6.8 rating as opposed to the 90% tomatometer score that would make you belive it’s an excellent movie.

Theoretically, a movie that has a weighted average of 6/10 may get 100% because if every critic gave it a 6/10 they are all considered positive responses. Another movie could get an average 9/10 and get the same 100% score on the Tomatometer because 9/10 is also considered a positive score. Conversely, a movie may 0% on the Tomatometer despite the average score to be a 4/10 because 4/10 is considered a negative score. This is the only time in which I believe the Tomatometer can become skewed. That is the main disadvantage of the Tomatometer.

In other words, movies with 0% could only be mildly negative when you read the weighted average and a movie with an 100% rating in reality may only be passable entertainment.

However, I do wish the weighted average score is emphasized (larger font size) more and the Tomatometer is emphasized less on their website as the weighted score is a better representation for critical consensus. If moviegoers are only reading the percentage, then I can see why this may be a problem for movie studios when their movies are actually half decent when the Tomatometer measure a 20% or less approval rating.

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You can even get the full reviews from Rotten Tomatoes by clicking the “Full Review” link to get everything a review has written on in it’s proper context. I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes are hiding anything based on what they are showing me.

 

But if you really want the best information, look at what critics think of a movie by reading their reviews. Rotten Tomatoes provide links to the full reviews that they have collected and you can gain a wealth of information that way. Lot of critics I have found would like or dislike a movie for similar reasons, movie studios may even see the trend and transfer it into their movie making!

Rotten Tomatoes is not a rigged system nor do they intend to be misleading, Rotten Tomatoes accurately provies aggerates from many (sometimes even hundreds) of critics per movie and you can even have access to what each individual says about the movie. It’s a wealth of data that comes from many people, which is why the website is popular in the first place.

The “Correlation” of Rotten Tomatoes and the Box Office

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171 million dollars so far for The Emoji Movie on a 50 million dollar budget . 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 💩😜 🔫

Now that we are done with the dumbest part of their argument which was the entree lets move on to the meat of their argument which is there is a strong correlation between Rotten Tomatoes scores via Fandango and each movie’s box office performance.

Well, Fandango purchased Rotten Tomatoes in February of 2016. Since that time here is a list of movies that contradicts the theory. Anything less than 60% is considered “rotten” or negative by Rotten Tomatoes scoring

1. How to be Single 47% positive, cost $38 million and made $112 million
2. London Has Fallen 25% positive, cost $60 million and made $205 million
3. Batman vs. Superman 27% positive cost $300 million and made $873 million
4. Suicide Squad 25% positive: cost $175 million and made $745 million
5. Alice Through the Looking Glass: 30% positive, Cost $170 million and made $300 million
6. Me Before You: 58% positive: Cost $20 million and made $200 million
7, Ice Age Collision Course: 15% Positive, cost $105 million and made $400 million
8. Blair Witch: 36% positive: Cost $5 million and made $45 million
9.xXx The Return of Xander Cage (my favorite bad film:) Cost $85 million and Made $346 million
10. A Dog’s Purpose: 30% positive: Cost $22 million and made $194 million
11. Rings 7% positive, cost $25 million: and made $83 million
12. Fifty Shades Darker: $55 million and made $378 million
13. The Mummy: 16% positive, Cost $ 125-195 million and made $407 million

Yes, I did cherry pick, I cherry picked because there are a lot more movies released since February of 2016 that have made a ton of money despite negative critical reviews. I just thought you’d get the picture by the thirteenth example

 

Also, if the inverse were to be true, all positively reviewed movies make money. That is not true either. There have been many movies that have had positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and have failed. Examples like Raw, Land of Mine, Lovesong, Free Fire, Logan Lucky, Silence, Things to Come, Miss Slone and Morris from America were all received positive reviews in the last two years but did not make twice their production budget (the general amount of money needed to break even) back.

Yes, there are many movies that have failed that have negative reviews and others have made lots of money while having positive reviews, but that there is no correlation to that being a formulaic rule. I have just disproven that with countless examples over the past two years that Fandango has purchased Rotten Tomatoes.

Reasons These Movies “Underperformed”

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This is what happens when you make the same movie over and over again.

The majority of these examples that movie studios have come up with were franchise movies like Transformers: The Last Knight. All of these franchise movies made money, but not as much as they wanted to. Movie studios have to know that every product has a shelf life and nothing lasts forever because people either get tired of it or they find other things that are more entertaining or beneficial to them. From the fidget spinner to Kodak, nothing lasts forever.

Maybe after ten years and over 600 minutes of robots and explosions fighting against larger robots and more explosions, people have been numbed by the experience? Maybe after fourteen years and more than 600 minutes of crazy pirates, the audience has gotten a little sea sick? If people were not simply bored of a repetitive product, why am I not watching the 66th season of I Love Lucy that should be out today if they were still creating new episodes?

 

Also, what was also more believable about the decline in the movie industry is the increase in advanced technologies in home entertainment where people now are more than willing to stream content at the touch of a button at home, or the expansion of more television channels which gives consumers broader range of entertainment and make them less likely to leave their homes to watch movies.

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I am sure not one person knows what this means because everyone is honorable and pays subsciption fees to watch Game of Thrones

Another reason for the decline is the increase of movie piracy through video torrenting and online streaming services. Because people can just get the movie for free that way, it would become harder for movie producers, distributors and cinemas to compete based on price. I would have also believed that more as a factor for industry decline than Rotten Tomatoes eroding profit margins

If movie companies sincerely believe in their own reasoning as to why they have failed at the box office recently, I wished I shared that fantasy. I’d love to be in a reality where all the great movies were successful and all the crappy movies were not. But that is not the reality and movie companies have known this for the last 40-50 years.

Where the Money Goes

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Left: The Critic. Right: The Advertising Agencies. I wish we were the same size.

The last 40-50 years of box office successess have harnessed hype to be successful. When people say that the movie industry is built on hype, that is absolutely true. Movie companies love hype and will pay advertising companies millions and millions of dollars to create it.

Marketing agencies will use every trick in the book to make a movie financially successful. They will use the press, guerrilla advertising, event marketing, publicity stunts, create websites and edit trailers to whatever mood they desire to get you in the door and I am only scratching the surface. They create such an event that they build hype and, if strong enough, people will be compelled to see the movie no matter how bad or good it may be.

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The definition of hype. Tell these people to skip a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and come back to me with the results if you are still alive.

If I tell a person in my University to not see the newest superhero movie they will shoot me. If I told them to watch Embrace of the Serpent, they would ask me why and I would tell them why. They would probably end up not watching it anyway.

A month ago I wrote a piece on how I wrote a blog titled “A Call to Action” where I wanted casual moviegoers to not tolerate mediocracy in movies as they have so often done (and continue to do to this day). If people only saw the good movies and rejected the poor ones, I would not have felt compelled to write that blog. The reality is, movie critics do not have a lot of power in persuading people to see or not to see a movie. Most of the time people read critics reviews to validate their own opinions on a movie. Critics only have the power of their word and that word is not strong enough, even though we try to make it stronger.

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To get you from left to right is a spectacularly hard job. Ad agencies can do that better than critics can. Even they cannot do sometimes with a multi million dollar budget.

The people who have all the power in the world are the advertising agencies that market the movies because they resonate more with consumers by creating a major desire for them. That desire is so strong that moviegoers are willing to get out of their houses, drive to the cinema, pay to park, pay an expensive movie ticket and concessions and sit in a room with people they don’t want to be with, to spend two hours out of their time to simply watch a movie. That is a lot of opportunity cost that advertising agencies overcome, that is a lot of power.

That is what determines the success or failure at box office.

Solutions

 

As I said earlier, I am glad movie studios believe their delusion. Why? Well, if they truly believe that the scores on Rotten Tomatoes are the results of their diminishing returns, then they have the solution in their own hands: Make better movies.

For the web designers at Rotten Tomatoes: emphasize the weighted average more so than the Tomatometer to better represent critical consensus so consumers gain more of an informed opinion

To moviegoers: Read more than the Tomatometer to gain some real insight into a film to determine what you may want to see. Generally, critics don’t like spoiling movies and they try to entertain the reader in the hopes you engage with them.

If people followed these steps, then the quality of movies would probably be better.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review

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Valerian revels in ambition, but does it succeed in it’s ambition? I would say “Yes… enough to recommend at least. Not enough to say it completely succeeds”

If anyone were to ask me “Hey Nelson, What movie has the best visuals going around multiplex right now?” I would say “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets by a long margin” because there are so many worlds and environments this movie takes you on and makes you feel like a kid in a candy shop. However, this movie is by no means a masterpiece as Valerian is considerably subpar on it’s other movie elements, especially in storytelling.

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Throuhgout the rest of this review I will just show the stunning photography. I hope my review looks pretty

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a story played out almost exactly like Avatar. There is a planet that is run on pearls as it’s main resource and is governed by a friendly alien species. There is one human in power that seeks to destroy it and the main characters Valerian and Laureline (Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne) are there to try and save it. If you ever get confused with the plot (which I understand) just think of the story of “Avatar” and it’s essentially the same thing.

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I could explain the plot further and in more detail, but in doing so I am essentially spoiling the movie from this point on. That is because Valerian is one of the films that only gives you a bit of info one moment at a time either by adding new information on the plot, or you have a retelling of the story told from the perspectives of different characters. This is actually a ballsy move because if you don’t care about the movie as you are watching it, you will be completely lost. If you are into the movie, it is like a gift that keeps on giving.

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For me, I understood the majority of the plot but only after listening intently and memorising what was said. I liked the ideas from the plot itself but for a movie that relies on you losing yourself emotionally with the visuals Valerian expects the viewer to use a lot on intellect and memorisation of the plot to get the full concept of the movie. The intended experience, I believe, to be at one with your emotion or your intellect in the movie. In practice it does not mix, either giving you 30 minutes of visuals or 30 minutes of plot rehashing and repeating that process for more than two hours. I understood and liked both elements, but they never came together for me.

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There was only one moment in Valerian where the movie was particularly bad which occurs when the story just stops completely. It is the two scenes that involve Rihanna. It’s not that she was bad, it was just that her character arc made seemingly no sense in the movie’s story. Those scenes just don’t develop any of the characters, nor do these scenes have any impact of the main plot whatsoever. If you took the two scenes out that involve her, I believe the story would have made just as much sense and you would have missed nothing.

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What you would not have missed in Valerian is the visual experience of it all. If you take out the mountains of average- sounding dialogue, it is like those Imax films that only exist to test the limits of the imax medium. It is, in of itself, beautiful. Alpha, which is the name of the city of the thousand planets, helps illustrate the visual variety. Since many planets from many species inhabited this city, there are various environments that are traversed and experienced, testing the limits of imagination. That, alone is more than enough of a recommendation to watch this film. ⭐⭐⭐1/2

 

A Call To Action

There is a reason people say “They don’t make great movies anymore” For me, it’s because it has been proven time and again that people like the familiar, which is fine, but it reaches a point to which people watch the same thing over and over again to the point where we watch for the entity and not the story. That is a creative killer.

Hoverever, recently I have seen some blockbuster movies that have squashed the mundane expectations that major film companies have benchmarked themselves for so long. I want this to continue but I don’t have any power to change that. Only the people can.

The last month and a half have been the best period for movies in the last sixteen months of reviewing movies by a country mile. I have had entire months without a single excellent movie (four stars or more). In the last five weeks, I have seen five excellent movies in a row. They are:

1. Spiderman Homecoming
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. War of the Planet of the Apes
5. The Big Sick

For me, to watch two excellent movies in a row is rare. To watch 5 has been unprecedented. To see two movies in a row that have gotten 4.75 stars from me is unreal.

I don’t rate movies on a bell curve. I call it like it is. I was wondering if it was just me and my positivity influencing these unusually high ratings. That is until I saw a video by the Double Toasted Podcast (Who have reviewed movies for a lot longer than I have) and they came to the consensus that this short period was the best period of watching movies they have had in the last several years.

I personally don’t know if this is going to be a recurring pattern but I hope it is. In the last month, these movies have curbed a lot of their vapid, uninspired movie making and have either gone for a stripped back approach, (The Big Sick) a reinvention, (Dunkirk) classic fun, (Spiderman Homecoming and Baby Driver) or a bit of everything (War of the Planet of the Apes)

Each one of these movies is completely different, memorable and engaging in their own way and that is when movies start to hit the stratosphere. To do that, a movie must take its chances to become either a great film or a film that burns to ashes.

If 2016 was any indicator to me, the movie industry was not willing to take that chance. Ultimately, they knew that to protect their investment these businesses they turned to advertising and repeated the same old formulas that get tiresome after awhile. This is where you, the reader, come in.

Movie industries (As well as any other industry) care about the money you make. They (like any other industry) fear it when a wave of people complain about their crappy product. With preview screenings, creative decision-making and statistics by their side, the movie industry listens intently. So it’s up to you to make a response.

I hope people these days want a new twist, something that is different that you don’t expect. It does not have to be a completely original or unheard of idea, but maybe go for a movie that has that’s familiar but a little bit different creatively. The above movies, aside from Dunkirk are not reinventions but old stories told in a new light.

Movie studios will only keep making these excellent movies if you the consumer ask for it. And I am behind that. It is easy to stay in the comfort zone of familiarity in movies but that gets old really fast. My advice: Don’t fear excellence, embrace it. To paraphrase from Field of Dreams “If you demand it: The movie studios will come”

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Atomic Blonde

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After watching Atomic Blonde I realized that David Leitch the director does a fantastic job at choreographing action sequences. As for telling an interesting and coherent story, he did not in this cinematic venture. The only reason Atomic Blonde gets a pass mark is that the action sequences are jaw droppingly amazing

Then I did a little bit of research and realized that David Leitch has been a professional stuntman for twenty years. That explained everything to me after seeing such a movie like Atomic Blonde. I have no doubt that Leitch will be known for his great action sequences because that alone got me through his convoluted storytelling.

The story is the formulaic “manhunt for the secret document that could put the world in jeopardy” cliche. I would not have minded this had a movie like Atomic Blonde but it’s own spin on the idea. Instead, you get many characters who work for different government agencies (MI6, CIA, Stazi, French agents, Drug lords etc.) and by the final third act, they betray each other so frequently that it would take a rocket scientist to untangle all the betrayals and deceits. To top it all off, There are even multiple characters who are proud of “deceiving the deceiver”. My head was spinning with confusion.

If there is anything that is salvageable in the movie it is the cinematography and action sequences. Atomic Blonde is shot like it was an entrant at some youth art-house film festival. There are a half dozen matching cuts, the camera is slowly rotating up and down and side to side and the colors are both oversaturated and sketchy. While that is a turn off in most instances, Atomic Blonde makes these shots work

What drives Atomic Blonde home though is the action sequences. They are violent, brutal, seamless and inventive all at once. The best action sequence was a seamless long take that takes place in a staircase. The bad guys don’t go down with one punch, making them legit badasses and a real threat in the movie.

So if I were you I would get a rental or watch it online and just skip to all the action sequences. If lesbian scenes are your thing there are a couple of love scenes in which Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella passionately make out in their perfect lingerie. Atomic Blonde is an exercise in style for style’s sake that works on style alone. Expect there is no sense in the story. Even London has Fallen had more sense in it’s story. ⭐⭐⭐

The Big Sick Review

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The Big Sick is all about people, real people. In an era where movie tries to sell a fantasy or the surreal, The Big Sick that takes places in the here and now and embraces it. This makes all these characters relatable, a story that’s believable and has an authenticity that caught me by a pleasant surprise. I was in awe watching this movie for long stretches of time.

The story about Kumil (Kumail Nanjiani) a Pakistani man who falls in love with a white girl and the relationship becomes complicated quickly with a clash of cultures as Kamul comes from a Muslim family and worries about telling his parents about his relationship. When his girlfriend is hospitalized from a bad disease that leaves her comatose, he is forced to connect with her parents (played by Ray Romero and Holly Hunter) and his own parents to try and make these new relationships work.

The Big Sick is a comedy movie that deals with a story that is very real in the lives of people, yet finds the tricky balance of adding humor without trivializing the story. Throughout the movie, Kumul lies to people to either impress others or for fear that his family would reject him. This leads into some funny and sticky situations at the same time. This includes some unique stand-up performances and Kumul having to try and warm up to his girlfriend’s parents in the most unlikely and awkward situations.

Ray Romero and Holly Hunter committed to their roles to an unusual yet welcoming amount of depth. Their interactions with Kumul and each other are worth the watch. Romero’s character is a simple, softly spoken man while Hunter’s character is a complex, outspoken woman but they both care about their family and both are willing to fight for it. So does Kumil. It’s so refreshing to see so many characters like their take stances even when they fear the worst. How they treat Kumal is both interesting and fascinating to watch.

The main deterrent to The Big Sick is the length. It is a 90-minute movie that went on for 2 hours. A lot of movies made or produced by Apatow are like this and I don’t know why. Everything needed to be said in The Big Sick is told in 90 minutes and the rest of the movie is like a game of emotional keepaway. The last half hour is not bad whatsoever but it just does it build up from the great material the movie offers in the first 90 minutes.

Still, the length does not take away the fact that The Big Sick is a great film about a real person who wants his old and new family to come together knowing that it’s easier said than done. I don’t like the movie simply because it is autobiographical but because it does not shy away from it’s material that seriously affects the lives of many people. Many other movies wouldn’t have the courage. That is hard enough in a drama, let alone a romantic comedy. ⭐⭐⭐⭐3/4

War of the Planet of the Apes- Wow!

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War of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best films of 2017. It intends no less than to go for broke and reap the rewards. It is a movie determined to go out with a spectacular bang and boy is this movie strong in that aspect. This movie is so brilliant that it has a good chance of being the best blockbuster that I see in 2017.

Why is War of the Planet of the Apes so fantastic? It masters the basics requirements of what makes a great movie. It has great action, special effects, characters, and drama. Most blockbusters can barely get one of these things right let alone all four.

What glues all four of these cinematic aspects together is a great story about the ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) wanting revenge against a ravenous Colonial (Woody Harrelson) seeking to kill apes whom he believes caused a virus, leaving humans with the inability to speak. The tension rises when the Colonial hatred starts to reflect Caesar’s and aims to consume him. The moral complexity ensues from there which makes this film so great above all that made the movie great.

This film is both, equally, about understanding and misunderstanding. This is why I don’t consider Woody Harrelson’s as a fully-fledged villain. He kills apes as he believes it stops spreading a terrible disease. His actions come off as hateful but his intentions do not. It’s within his interpretation of a crisis situation that causes the pain and misery that festers throughout the film which is the inability to understand that the apes are not savages.

From this story, you can see how much influence Apocalypse Now had on this movie. There even graffiti that says “Ape-pocalypse now” sprawled across an underground wall. My favorite movie last year was also inspired by that same movie but War of the Planet of the Apes is a more hopeful film, a film that has the epic feel to it. This movie does not back away from the brutality and pain but it does remind you there are sparks of hope along the way.

This movie ultimately shows us the consequences of condemning things that we do not understand. We can fear the unknown but we have no right to judge it. This movie actually reminded me of how AIDs victims in the 80’s were societal outcasts because humans feared they could get the disease through touch. Then I looked online and people have compared it to many other historical events like the Holocaust and slavery. Ultimately, War of the Planet of the Apes is a great story combined with a brilliant spectacle. It shows the best of a blockbuster in an era where normally the blockbuster is mundane. ⭐⭐⭐⭐3/4

Spiderman’s Homecoming

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Spiderman lives up to the hype that seems to come with most Marvel installments. There are several cool action sequences in addition to some good acting and storytelling. All of this makes it fun to watch. With the exception of a couple of surprising moments, Spiderman Homecoming is exactly what you would expect.

Spiderman Homecoming starts off with a teenage Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland) being told to resolve minor disturbances in the city by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) believing that Parker is not ready to be an Avenger. That is until Spiderman sees a superweapons deal taking place that will lead him to a superweapons-like cartel led by Vulture (Michael Keaton) to which Spiderman feels he needs to stop.

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I wonder how Keaton got the part to play Vulture? I’ll ponder that thought.

What Spiderman Homecoming nails is the performances more than anything else. Holland does nail portraying a teenage Peter Parker who does play it an overly optimistic way that is (somehow) charming. Keaton has a great scene stealer that gave me a hearty chuckle and works best when he plays detective more so than a villain. The newcomer Jacob Batalon who plays Ned, Peter’s best friend also surprised me as well.

The second greatest thing about Spiderman Homecoming is the coming of age story that evolves throughout the second half. On paper, the story is standard and unoriginal but I loved the execution of it. Spiderman Homecoming is the old “If your nothing with X, then you are nothing without X” that places Parker as the awkward adolescent that fights with his overzealous ambitions that go with being an adolescent.

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My favourite scene in the entire movie occours in Keaton’s car

 

My favorite moment in the story occours just before the “homecoming” in which Spiderman is tested, not on a ground of combat but on a ground of morals and choices. It is a relief that those moments are not overdone with the image of the hero looking down and reflecting on the suffering and/or injustice that is seen in too many superhero movies these days.

There are little moments in Spiderman Homecoming that annoy me in which the story back peddles slightly. Moments of earned pathos and drama are unnecessarily cut off by a joke. It shows me that even great movies have safety nets, to which I want to go away. That being said, most of the jokes land when they are meant to.

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One of the more memorable moments in Spiderman: Homecoming

And yes, there are multiple action sequences that are entertaining but the most suspenseful one is set at the Washington Monument. I sometimes wonder how they filmmakers shoot these scenes sometimes. The ferry action sequence was decent, but the climatic fight on a plane nearly gave me seizures from lights flickering all over the place.

I would have said that Spiderman Homecoming was a very good film with entertaining action set pieces, acting and storytelling, but the coming-of-age story that is emphasized in the second half put the movie over the edge ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

 

Cars 3: Same Gear, Still Speeding

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I had a nice time watching Cars 3. The positives outweigh the negatives on this one. Yes, there are many cliches and lacks the strong emotional punch of previous Pixar installments, but Cars 3 makes up for it with storytelling that develops as the characters develop themselves.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is no longer the fast one of the track as many new and improved cars are taking the tarmac. McQueen seeks the help of a car fitness instructor called Cruz Ramerez to get McQueen up to speed with the younger cars in order to reclaim the Piston Cup.

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The movie is centered on the relationship beitween Lightning McQueen and his new fitness coach Cruz Ramirez

Cars 3 is like a light-hearted escapist movie with a bit of a brain. There is a lot of races going on where McQueen and Ramerez speed around beaches, tracks, a smash-em-up derby and racing simulations. All of which is at least mildly entertaining with the brightly colored animation, dialogue, and action sequences.

Cars 3 also serves as justification in making a sequel by making the themes somewhat different. The action and the racing is similar (which I don’t mind) but the themes do involve a car learning about what he wants in his late career. It’s just a pity that there was not a satisfying payoff of that in the end. There are some decent moments but because the ideas Cars 3 dabbles in are not fully realized, Cars 3 does not separate itself from the rest of the pack.

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It’s a battle between old scool and new school and a battle of driving faster or driving smarter.

In between all of the action and ideas are some moments of humor and social satire. There a funny class between old-school fitness training with new-school fitness training. Cars 3 also satirizes sports broadcasting by the female cars giving superfluous sporting statistics and Cars 3 even makes fun of Pixar themselves turning into a cash cow franchise.

Ultimately I see Cars 3 as a movie that is firmly on the right track but lacks the courage of it’s convictions to go the distance. For another analogy: They built the car but not the road to drive on to experience the feeling of freedom. Still, it’s a pretty nice car to own. ⭐⭐⭐1/2.

 

 

 

 

Despicable Me 3 Review

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Acting ⭐⭐⭐
Build ⭐1/2
Writing:⭐⭐⭐1/4
Characters ⭐⭐3/4
Visuals: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

The Despicable Me franchise has always had it’s childish slapstick embedded into a story and it has usually worked. With Despicable Me 3, it is used as the crux and has it’s hits and misses. Because of that, Despicable me has some laughs and insightful moments, but can never fully develop them.

The story: Gru (Steve Carrell) who discovers he has a twin brother called Stu. They work together as criminals to try and take a diamond that was stolen by Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) who is using that diamond to create a monster to destroy the world.

Illumination Entertainment knows you like the Minions so they are going to give it to you. There is a ton of kids slapstick humor with the Minions that kids will enjoy. I did not mind either until they kept doing Minion gags for what felt like forever. Eventually, I started to lose interest in the comedy as I felt it was getting stale.

After the entire first act of wacky comedy do we finally start to develop characters and eventually the plot. They try to develop characters such as Gru’s insecurities and Agnes (Gru’s youngest adoptive daughter) supposed loss of innocence but never works as well as it could have. I feel that’s because they spent so much time on action and comedic sequences that the story inadvertently falls by the wayside.

While Despicable Me 3 is a decent movie it plays so frustratingly safe that I have become somewhat disappointed in the franchise. The reason I am disappointed is that I know they can make great movies like the original. The original balanced the tones between action, comedy and drama perfectly. By the thrid time around it seems to have lost some of the substances by creating too much tiresome slapstick and little action or drama to counterbalance it ⭐⭐3/4